‘Healthy’ individuals at heart disease risk too

September 8th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 8 (IANS) How much fat a person has is not as important as where it is located, in assessing risk for cardiovascular events and metabolic disease, according to a new study. “We are facing an obesity epidemic, which obviously affects many things - metabolic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, etc.,” said Jingzhong Ding, lead researcher and assistant professor of gerontology at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre. “Now we are finding out that where the fat is distributed is of high importance.”

Researchers used cardiac and CT scans to measure multiple fat depots in 398 Caucasians and African-American participants from Forsyth County, North Carolina, aged between 47 and 86 years.

They found that the amount of fat a person had deposited around organs and in between muscles (nonsubcutaneous fat) had a direct correlation to the amount of hard, calcified plaque they had.

Calcified plaque itself is not considered risky, but it is associated with the development of atherosclerosis, or the presence of less stable, fatty deposits in the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

“Our hypothesis was that this kind of fat is quite different from subcutaneous fat, or fat just below the skin,” Ding said. “Subcutaneous fat may not be as bad as having fat deposited around organs and in between muscles.”

Last month, Ding published results of a similar study showing that fat deposited around the heart (pericardial fat) is associated with calcified plaque in the arteries and therefore may be worse than having a high BMI or a thick waist.

Ding is continuing long-term studies to investigate whether individuals with excessive fat deposited in and around organs and muscles may be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiac events regardless of overall body fat.

“We know that even thin people could have excessive non-subcutaneous fat,” Ding said. “If this hypothesis is confirmed, we should look for ways to specifically target the non-subcutaneous fat depot.”

These findings are scheduled for publication in a forthcoming issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a publication of the American Society for Nutrition.

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